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Friday, July 29, 2005

Champions League Draw - Third Round Qualifiers

I am pleased that Liverpool and Everton have avoided each other in the third round draw, provided, of course, that Liverpool fend off FBK Kaunas in the 2nd leg. Expectations stated that Liverpool should do, and I feel they will, but then again AC Milan were expected to beat Liverpool, and Celtic were not expected to lose, much less so heavily.

But to have avoided our neighbours is a relief. Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry mentions that, in so many words, without the country protection afforded to the group stages, conspiracy theorists would indicate a Merseyside tie as an inevitable outcome from the draw. Not only would such a tie have had a hype-up in the media, but it would put one side out of the competition so early, which would be detrimental to English football, and I want to see all the British sides going through at least the group stages. Besides, given the sensitive issue previously about Liverpool qualifying as winners and 4th place, it was best these two did not meet at this stage.

Saying that, Liverpool could face either CSKA Sofia or Dinamo Tirana, though the Bulgarians have the 2-0 advantage. I see Sofia coming through, their European pedigree is quite strong, particularly in the UEFA Cup campaign. They played Blackburn in the UEFA Cup October 2002 and narrowly avoided victory, being 0-3 down in the 2nd leg and coming back to 3-3, Blackburn going through on away goals. Sofia have come from an almost unbeaten run last season in the Wisscha League, losing only their final game and drawing 4 times out of 30 matches.

Everton face Villarreal, who have held Barcelona during the Catalans' emergence towards the Primera Liga title, losing 9, drawing 11 out of 38 games and achieving 3rd place. Last year they went as high as the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup, losing to Dutch side AZ Alkmar 3-2, they acquired the services of a rejuvenated Diego Forlan and they have recently signed Juve defender Alessio Tacchinardi. They can provide good competition for the Toffees.

Manchester United play either Hungary's Debrecen or Croatia's Hadjuk Split. Debrencen (Debreceni VSC) lost 4, drew 5 out of 30 games last season while Hadjuk lost 8, drew 8 out of 32. The Hungarian side have the 3-0 lead for the 2nd leg and therefore seem set to progress. Now with the Premiership competition tightening up, it was a toss-up out of Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd as to who will be in this position, as opposed to Man Utd and Arsenal enjoying the monopoly between themselves of 1st and 2nd places almost every season. Sir Alex's preparation has gone well so far other than last night's friendly defeat, preparation which seem to have brought out the worst between Rio Ferdinand and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. With Edwin Van Der Sar in goal and his European experience to add, and Park Ji-sung in promising form, Utd have added to their campaign for a better European tour.

Champions League Third Round qualifying draw

Basle 1893 v Werder Bremen
Glasgow Celtic or Artmedia Bratislava v Partizan Belgrade or FC Sheriff
Shakhtar Donetsk v Inter
Shelbourne or Steaua Bucharest v Rosenborg
Man Utd v Debreceni VSC or Hajduk Split
Malmo or Maccabi Haifa v Dynamo Kiev or FC Thun
Everton v Villarreal
Liverpool or FBK Kaunas v CSKA Sofia or Dinamo Tirana
Sporting Lisbon v Udinese
Valerenga or FC Haka v Clube Brugge
Rapid Vienna or Dudelange v Rabotnicki or Lokomotiv Moscow
Anderlecht or Neftchi v Slavia Prague
Trabzonspor or Anorthosis v Glasgow Rangers
Brondby or Dynamo Tbilisi v Ajax
Real Betis v Monaco
Wisla Krakow v Panathinaikos


Monday, July 25, 2005

Reply to Sissoko question on Vieira article 17/07

I appeal to the anonymous commenter who left a message on the article titled 'Sissoko will not surpass the awesome Vieira', 8 days ago, asking my opinion on the midfield set-up at Anfield. The comment quoted was:

"I've been impressed with Sissoko, actually, but from what I've seen, he looks to have more the capabilities of Papa Diop than Vieira. Isn't he going to be Hamann's eventual replacement? How do you see Benitez lining up your midfield, redsman?"

Please, firstly, my unreserved apologies to that commenter for not replying, usually I scroll through past articles to see any additional replies and missed your own. Very sorry about missing your one.

Secondly, my answer to your question. We look at the set-up of Hamann, Gerrard, Alonso and Sissoko. Rafael Benitez is not breaking up his 4-4-2 formation, which is welcoming from the 4-5-1 we had last season with Baros. Alonso and Gerrard are set to be the standard selection for the middle, Hamann is, as he came to be in May in Istanbul, the experienced peacemaker who will come on if need be to settle any loss of possession in the midfield, a sweeper if you will. I find that from what I've seen of Sissoko, his mold at present is similar to Hamann, and to some degree of Vieira. Dispossess, hold off if need be and distribute to clear danger and/or engage the attack quickly.

This is why Benitez likened the Mali man to the Senegalese-born former Gunner. Vieira has the strength to hold off a player long enough to think ahead on what to do with the ball when he gained possession. Hamann had been deployed to enact an equivalent role, and being that he has this season only, so far, to remain at Liverpool, I feel you are correct in asking the question. It is likely Sissoko is to take over from that rein of play. For what also hindered Benitez last season was the injury to Alonso, which denied the team of the reserved playmaker who distributed, leaving Gerrard to attack forward. In the event either Alonso or Gerrard are injured, Sissoko should be geared to replace adequately.

As for Papa Dioup, I like him. Another tall, strong player packing a hefty shot on him, coming from midfield late for the loose ball, he has troubled the likes of Man Utd and Chelsea with his ability. This ability to shoot from late arrival is fitting more in Papa's game, and Hamann, and, I feel potentially, from Sissoko, but Vieira was more the midfield anchor, leaving the final attack near or in the box more to Henry, Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, etc.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Inter Milan paving the way forward in defiance

Inter Milan have, it would appear once again, changed their minds in regard to their pre-season tour of Leicester, Crystal Palace, Portsmouth and Norwich, in England. To do otherwise and not come over would have shown a frightened beacon to the darkness of the terrorism that we are currently dealing with at present, and I sense the security situation here is being put under control as much as anywhere else where terrorism has struck, if not more so. People still continue to go about their lives, they do so in Madrid and they certainly should do so here. And as the emergency services and volunteers aid in the clearance and investigation of the bombings in Egypt's Sharm el Sheikh, the British remain defiant and head-strong to deter being frightened away from their everyday life.

Our Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, is said to have had talks with his counterpart in Italy, Mario Pescante, who was in contact with the president of the Italian Football Federation, who in turn spoke with Massimo Moratti, Giacinto Facchetti and Roberto Mancini, owner, president and coach of Inter respectively. Inter seem positive in a solution in continuing with their tour.

Since the events of 9/11, flying to the US was severely hampered but numbers of travellers managed to pick up, though security has been bolstered to a much more sensitive degree. The British are no different, Inter should feel comfortable in the arrangements for their stay during the tour. Save for when lives were at risk during the Heysel and Hillsborough tragedy, football should never be cancelled, and those who follow the clubs in the Inter tour are also prepared to come out and stand up not only for their respective clubs, but for the name of unity against terrorism.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Crouch enters the Anfield domain

Peter Crouch coming to Liverpool seems to pave the way for the exit of Milan Baros. Baros, along with Jerzy Dudek, was omitted from last night's CL qualifier squad and started rumours of a possible move on the horizon. With Fernando Morientes, Djibril Cisse and Crouch, Baros makes a fourth striker which we need at the club. I like Baros, I find he has pace, determination, grit and has an erratic way of getting pass players and scoring. Some may say unorthordox but as long as he scores and helps the team, then there's no complaints. He will be disgruntled to see that he has still to prove to Rafael Benitez. I hope Baros, he has been there for us when others hadn't, when others in the team were shot-shy, much less goal-shy.

Rafael says Crouch gives another dimension in attack, and he has proven to have scored well for all the clubs he has played for. If Benitez is confident of getting the kind of flair to encourage goals for Liverpool, he'll be a better manager than he was considered to be in May. Graham Taylor and Harry Redknapp saw something in the tall forward, it's that kind of vision that Benitez must also have seen to have bought him. I have my doubts but I stand behind the manager, he knows what he has planned. I just hope Baros can be included in that planning too.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

SWP finally to go as Cole is finally to stay?

SWP has his wishes granted as both Manchester City and Chelsea agree a fee for him said to be £21m. This comes after City manager Stuart Pearce said both the club and the player are happy about him staying at the City of Manchester. I wondered how strong the resistence would be to move to the champions. My colleague TS spoke of SWP being a fan of the Gunners and the son of famous former Gunner Ian Wright, why he should be Arsene Wenger's next target. But Chelsea have gotten there first. I hope that it will not be a repeat of another winger who stood out at his club, moved to Chelsea and then ended up on the sidelines, partly through injury, only to be bought by another club without actually stamping some authority with the Blues. I wonder if this means either Arjen Robben or Damien Duff will be on the bench, Joe Cole is knocked further down the order, or does Mourinho have a different position but similar role in mind for SWP?

While Arsenal look to have missed out on signing SWP, and have a void to fill with the departure of Vieira to Juventus, another u-turn occurs with Ashley Cole set to agree on a rumoured £70,000 weekly wage with Arsenal. After the left-back said previously "They've left me feeling there is no way back, that they don't want me to put my beloved Arsenal shirt on again." This sounds so eerily familiar. So he seems to remain at the club, and the captaincy has gone to Henry, it would appear. I don't feel there is anyone else deserving of it, other than Bergkamp. But Gooners can correct me if I'm wrong, wasn't Vieira one of only three players on £60,000 or more per week? Therefore, his highest-earning wages are replaced with another in Cole. Hence, in my opinion, the offered deal.

With the blue side of Manchester looking to continue without SWP, and possibly with the addition of former Red Devil Andy Cole, do the red side consider doing the same with Rio Ferdinand? He is said to be on the request for a higher salary while the board consider they have offered him a lucrative enough contract. I understand he has two years left but I cannot forsee him going in to the season without making a thorough decision on his future. The rumour machine says his agent being Pini Zahavi shows he is awaiting for Chelsea to come in for him to partner Terry, leaving Carvalho and Gallas as cover. Certainly a section of Man Utd feel he is being negative after they booed his every touch in the Clyde friendly, along with taunts of 'greedy'. Back in May, after Utd's win at Charlton, Ferdinand was jeered and his reaction was:

"If I was one of them I'd wonder when the deal was going to be signed as well. I won't pretend it was a comfortable feeling to have your own supporters getting on your back but they need to know I want to stay at Old Trafford. I do want to stay at Manchester United - I have said that from the beginning.....They couldn't be further away from the truth if they think I want to go. Contracts do not get signed in five minutes. Most players take about six months to sort out a deal. I've no intention of leaving. I want the contract sorted. If I could have signed it yesterday I would have."

As for Liverpool, Jamie Carragher has stated that he visualises for this season a finish outside the top three as he considers the club do not have the resources that Chelsea and Man Utd can lean back on. After the Champs League, it is definitely paramount Liverpool mount a serious challenge for the title, to establish ourselves thoroughly as one of the best teams in the league every season. I don't expect the title, that would be way too expectant, but I expect competition for every position, so it's good Rafael Benitez is making more signings. I expect a better run of wins than the past seasons, better performances and more goals. If that means we are still some way of the mark for the title, fine, as along as we play like champions and make a solid effort of or aim for the Premiership title.


Friday, July 15, 2005

EFT statement on offensive comments

Good morning,

Firstly, some of the replies to the article on Vieira, here on EFT yesterday, were too offensive to remain on the site. EFT cannot and will not condone the use of profanity, racist and nationalist remarks, and where we felt it occurred, we had to delete it. A number of the replies were good and they remain. On our frontpage, we have the legendary Pele and Bobby Moore in their famous exchange after the Brazil v England 1970 World Cup match in Mexico. Underneath that is our statement:

"EFT operates a 'respect your opponent' policy in keeping with the masters of the game."

We enjoy and thrive on the replies, and we encourage all who have an opinion on football to participate. We at EFT are immense football fans, and we differentiate in regards to the teams we individually support, so even between us here, we have disagreements about opinions to our clubs, other clubs, other situations, events, but we are passionate enough about the sport not to become too animated, or excited to the degree of insulting or offensive dialogue.

Please keep the exchanges to a controlled level where the only offensive issue in the replies is that someone has the bravery to support another team other than your own!!

RedsMan, TS, Abdul, SKG, Berry, Skipper

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Fabregas is reason why Arsenal can afford to let Vieira go

Pat has gone. The man who spearheaded the Wenger revolution departs after nine seasons of service. I wish him well at Juventus as he embarks upon his new challenge.

He arrived at Highbury in August 1996 as an unknown AC Milan reserve. He leaves as Arsenal and French captain. This sums up his impact in the Arsenal shirt. His legacy is that he will go down as one of the all-time Arsenal greats.

Two doubles (one as captain); one more league championship; two more FA Cups; captain of the Arsenal 49ers. But more than that: a pivotal part of the best pure footballing team I have witnessed.

To win is great. Too win in style is awesome! Pat was key to this.

20 million Euros (£13.7 million) is about right for a 29 year old who increasingly suffers from niggling injuries.

The emergence of Fabregas is the reason why there is no need to fear the departing of Vieira.

Fabregas and Vieira did not entirely work as a partnership because both needs a defensive partner a'la Gilberto/Petit/Grimandi to mind the defence so to allow them to do damage further up the pitch. Fabregas' performances demanded first team status; but Pat played best with Gilberto.

In the FA Cup final Arsene tried to use all three of Gilberto, Vieira, and Francesc in the middle. But this is not the game Arsenal is used too and they got congested playing a system alien to the one that has bought Wenger his success.

Now with Pat gone the dilemma of 'three into two' also goes. Gilberto and Fabregas complement each other and are a partnership that I believe in.

A commentator on EFT last night suggested Kolo converting to a back-up utility midfielder, and I like this suggestion. His first season at Arsenal was played in midfield; and he has the energy and distribution to perform well at this task.

Wenger will use the Vieira money to strengthen our side. Personally, I would love it to be used to help fund a bid for Shaun Wright-Phillips. With a talisman figure gone, it will be positive if a 'future great' came into the club. As an Arsenal fan, and son of an Arsenal legend, he is made for the club. He will be a lock-on success in an Arsenal shirt.

Today is about the departure of an Arsenal legend. Tomorrow it will begin with Thierry as captain and Wenger plotting a new era of success with a couple of big names joining the club. I look forward to seeing who is bought in.

July 14, 2005: the date Vieira said goodbye to Arsenal?

The Gazzetta Dello Sport website is leading with the breaking news that Juventus and Arsenal agreed on Wednesday evening to the transfer of Patrick Vieira to the Italian Champions.

Gazzetta states the agreed price is approximately 15 million Euros (£10 million), while the Italian National Press Agency, ASNA, states the agreed price is approximately 18 million Euros (£12.4 million).

Gazzetta says the move will be officially announced later on today. We'll wait and see if they are correct...

P.S. If Vieira does go, the money raised should go on funding a bid for Arsenal fan and son of an Arsenal legend: Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Is David Dein an influence on the FA?

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has claimed Arsenal's vice chairman David Dein has influence on the Football Association in his position as one of four members representing the Premier League.

"After the first five games of next season's [CL] we have to play away while Arsenal are at home....We play Arsenal on a Sunday. Why? Because it's Arsenal and the game follows an international.....If I stay with Chelsea for five years maybe Mr Dein will not be with the FA anymore and Chelsea will have a different season. A person who works for a club should not work for the FA."

The other three members representing the Premier League are chairmen Phil Gartside, Robert Coar and Dave Richards, of Bolton wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and the Premier League respectively. In fairness to Mr Dein, these representatives are voted in by the Premiership chairmen, including Chelsea's. And one has to look at the positions of Mr Coar and Mr Gartside, do they have influence in regard to their respective clubs?

Whichever way your opinion sways, no doubt the FA will be calling on Mourinho yet again to explain himself. Personally, I cannot see enough to suggest Mr Dein has any influence, but then I looked at the fixture list for this coming season......


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Sissoko will not surpass the awesome Vieira

"He has incredible ability for his age. He is 20, I saw Vieira when he was 18-years old and he was no better than Sissoko. Sissoko runs more than Vieira. In a couple of years he will be more dynamic than Vieira and a better player."

This is Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez commenting on his latest signing. And he has some Mourinho-type arrogance to come out with these specific comments.

I am confident in stating that Mohamed Sissoko is not going to be as good as Vieira, let alone better than the great Arsenal and French captain.

Rafa Benitez always comes across to me as an honest, modest, sensible individual. This is why I'm surprised by his talking-up of Sissoko in comparison to Vieira.

I first watched Sissoko two seasons ago on Sky. The commentators touted the teenager as a Vieira-type player. I decided then to watch this guy carefully, to see if he is the 'next Vieira' who perhaps Arsenal can go after when Pat calls it a day (which apparently is every summer).

I could see why he is compared to Vieira. He is African, has extremely long-limbs, and plays in central midfield. But this is where the similarities end. Much like the mistake made when Gerard Houllier bought Djimi Traore- being African and having long limbs is not enough to make a great player. Both Sissoko and Traore don’t have the same tenacity, the same ball-skills, the same passing ability, the same power-impact-energy as Vieira.

Having seen Sissoko again on a couple of occasions last season my opinion hasn't changed. When Vieira, aged 20, made his debut for Arsenal against Sheff Wed in September 1996 he made such an impact that I still remember it nearly 10 years on. His talent and potential greatness was there for all to see: I had never seen a player like him.

The next season he partnered Manu Petit in a central midfield that played with such skill and tenacity as to enable a league and cup double in Arsene Wenger's first full season in charge. Vieira than set up Petit for France's third goal against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final.

Under his captaincy Arsenal have won another double, plus completed a 49 match unbeaten run. Last season he struggled when carrying the midfield burden alongside the inexperienced Fabregas and Flamini, but returned to his best when Gilberto came back into the team which allowed Pat the freedom to roam all round the pitch.

Sissoko has a lot to live up to after Benitez's claims. Nine consistent years of world-class performances to drive his team to consecutive top two finishes in the Premiership are required just as a starter.

I wish Sissoko well for Liverpool- but doubt that in nine years time Rafa can say he was right.


Bentitez should be aware of the track record of coaches comparing new signings to great Arsenal players.

On signing Igor Biscan, Phil Thompson said that he would be Liverpool's answer to Vieira.
And on signing Ramon Vega, Gerry Francis said that Tottenham had signed their Tony Adams.

Friday, July 08, 2005

From one skipper to another as Bellamy signs

Having had one episode this week of a talisman skipper on the verge of leaving, we now go to another. Juventus have come into London to discuss with Arsenal the possible acquisition of Patrick Vieira, a possible £14m deal that could additionally have the arrival of Stephen Appiah at Highbury. Perhaps someone could enlighten me with any knowledge on Appiah. But the reaction from Highbury is nothing so far, and in fairness it would seem premature to do so. Surely Juve wouldn't come to London if something wasn't possible enough?

Blackburn have made what could be yet another shrewd signing in Craig Bellamy. The questions are there about the Welshman's temperament but he has played for Wales under Mark Hughes and the club could do with a boost from a player of his potential. Also with the addition of Shefki Kuqi, who seemed in great form for Ipswich last season, the club look to be taking a better step in the direction of improvement.

Rio Ferdinand is rumoured to have refused a new contract at Old Trafford. His agent is Pini Zahavi, infamously linked with Chelsea, the same club who have Peter Kenyon as their chief executive, the very same executive who coincidentally happened to be in the same place as Ferdinand, in public, twice. Following from the Colegate, the whispers were that Kenyon was tapping up the defender. But Zahavi stated that Ferdinand is loyal to Utd, so you'd expect a deal to be signed very shortly.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Terrorism in Central London - EFT

I quoted the great Bill Shankly yesterday in a blog that football was more important than life and death. That was tongue-in-cheek for effect of the issue I wrote about. The devastating events that had occurred this morning in areas of central London clearly emphasises that. My condolences to those whose friends, relatives or acquaintances died today as a result. I, and I expect I speak for the other members here at elitefootballtalk, sincerely hope for a speedy recovery for those injured.

We have had yet another reminder that we should not take life for granted, particularly in London but it can be anywhere. We need to be vigilant, we can consider ourselves crazy for reporting the slightest suspicion, but it can be that craziness that can save lives. Let's not forget that.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

'Welcome to Anfield' - Stevie, turn here!!!

An appropriate adjective? A suitable superlative? A decent description? Basically, Steven Gerrard is staying at Anfield. Got in his vehicle, left Melwood training ground, was on his way either to London or the airport for Spain, saw the sign for Anfield, went round the roundabout and came back. Saw Rick Parry and said he wants to stay.

Yep. He wants to stay.

Incredible. That's one description.

I watched Sky Sports News as it broke the news and I found myself stunned again, practically fell onto the floor in bewilderment (sorry, neighbours!). The commercials were on and then Sky Sports returned, with the caption of 'Breaking News'. Mike Wedderburn and Alex Hammond delivered the stunner. Sky Sports then featured Anfield live, where their reporter Fraiser Dainton was approached by Rick Parry, and Dainton asked him what the latest was about Gerrard. Maybe prior to this it was said that there was some news on the matter and the chief executive will be speaking about it shortly. Parry then said Gerrard wants to stay. Dainton repeated Parry's words in some slight disbelief.

"The last 5 or 6 weeks have been the hardest as I believed the club didn't want me."

There may have been misunderstandings from both LFC and Gerrard as to where each other stood, they have both apologised to each other because, at the back of it all, they BOTH wanted the same thing. I'm still puzzled as to how LFC could emanate signs that they are not interested in him. Obviously, immaterial to what is or has been said or indicated, there should be no doubt that the club want Gerrard to sign. There isn't a club on earth who would have Gerrard as their contracted player and be slack in their manner as to indicate they are not interested in him staying, not one. Gerrard must have realised that. LFC would be suicidal to have shown any feelings in that way. With the rumour-mongering initially in Spain that he would be on his way there, the media reports, then the past 4-5 days resulting in his statement yesterday, the club were resigned to losing him, regardless of what they did.

I said before in a previous blog that he would be staying. I said today he proved me wrong. Now today he has proven me right. And I think he has proven properly, and I sincerely hope eternally, where his heart is.

"I'll be signing, maybe even today. I'd like it known there are no clauses......I've committed my long-term future and I want to end the speculation now."

That wants to be clear enough. No more of this indecisiveness. Now he is here to stay, thick and thin, because he wants to, not because he feels he has to. Something else that needs clearing up:

"Reports of bust-ups with the manager are complete nonsense."

Good. Another:

Parry [to Sky Sports Fraiser Dainton]: "....I think the language, to be fair, he had been using to us, even when...even when he said he was going...he...he never said 'I want to go', it was 'it's been so difficult', 'the last few days have been so difficult', 'I don't think I could come back', he never actually said 'I want to go'."

And one more:

Sky Sports' Dainton: "So onwards and upwards from here, and the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid can forget it?"

Parry: "Absolutely."

Thank you. Now back to business. We look to be a club pinning our future hopes of success on one player, we are not. As I said, no club would want Gerrard to leave, and any sensible club wouldn't want to have a player at the club who doesn't want to. All efforts had been exhausted to persuade him to stay and he said no, and we had to resign to that and move on. People have said or thought that this would signal a downfall for Liverpool. We were said to be a one-man team with Michael Owen. I believe we would have proven to be not a one-man team with Gerrard.

Gerrard has also stated that SFX are blameless, they did that which he instructed them [Struan Marshall] to do.

Beating Chelsea, winning Champs League, hearing Gerrard wants to stay, is committed to signing for the club, suddenly hearing he wants to leave, and now today he wants to stay. After that, if I were to have a heart attack from us winning the title this coming season, it wouldn't hurt that much. As Shankley said:

"This is a team with skill and character, with men eager and ready to do any job if it's for the benefit of the club."

"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I'm very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

Now, from one solution to another. Total Network Solutions.


Steven Gerrard is staying at Liverpool - official!

More on this from myself, and no doubt everyone and anyone else, later - when I eventually come off the ceiling!


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Gerrard's statement on leaving - Rubbish!

"The last six weeks have been the toughest of my life & it is the hardest decision I have ever had to make. I fully intended to sign a new contract after the Champions League final but the events of the past 5 or 6 weeks have changed all that. I have too much respect for the club and the people at it to get involved in a slagging match."

My esteemed colleague, TS, who is an avid Arsenal fan, equated the Gerrard situation to that of Patrick Vieira and Real Madrid, and stated so in a reply to a blog on this site:

'As an Arsenal fan I've seen this all before with Vieira. Pat is a top player, and was tempted by the challenge, opportunities, and change in lifestyle of playing for a team with the history of Madrid. However, when push came to shove, Pat realised what he was leaving behind and could not take the plunge. When Stevie looks back at what he will be leaving will he feel the same way? He has been playing in a Liverpool team that has only once genuinely challenged for the league title in his time at the club.

He has particlularly been frustrated that in the last three seasons his team has been way of the pace in the title race. Its not about money for Stevie because he has millions in the bank. It is about guaranteed genuine championship challenging opportunites every year. He is after medals. We all know that Stevie doubted Liverpool's chances to win in Europe by his remarks before the Leverkusen game. This displayed a lack of faith in his team. Despite winning the champs league these doubts may not have left him. In the cold light of day he might see Istanbul as a one time wonder.

His agent has a financial interest in Stevie moving. SFX will stress the advantages of a move for Stevie's career opportunities. With all this on his mind, Stevie is confused. There are advantages in staying, and advantages in leaving. It will all come down to the moment when push comes to shove. At this moment it will dawn on Stevie what he will be leaving behind if he leaves. He is the main man at Liverpool. He will just be another player elsewhere.....'

In conversation with TS yesterday, I stated that I had had enough and now wished for Gerrard himself to speak tomorrow (today) and finally say with utter conviction whether he will stay or go. If it were not to happen tomorrow (today), then deadline, for me , would be Thursday morning. Seems that I spoke very soon but at least we have an official guidance on Gerrard's intentions.

Bearing that in mind, Gerrard has been contemplating how successful will Liverpool be, say, in the next five years? Then compared that to Chelsea, Man Utd, and Arsenal, Real Madrid. These teams are regularly in the running for their respective titles. Two of them have registered their interests publicly, one has already submitted a bid. The lure is too much, a bigger wage and realistic chase for more honours.

Gerrard fully intended to sign after the Champs League. He said he is 100% committed to signing for the club. He said he is ready to sign for Liverpool on camera twice. Yet between the final and now he states that something has happened that changed his mind. What was it? No clue. Nothing in the statement, perhaps he'll wait until he moves and tell all to the News of the World when he gets there, out of Merseyside. What could have happened to have deterred Gerrard from signing for the club he wants to sign for and who wants him to sign? It cannot have been Rafael's intended signings, since Gerrard was prepared to sign after the final.

"....too much respect for the club and the people at it to get involved in a slagging match."

No, that is not Liverpool Football Club, not Rick Parry, not David Moores, not Rafael Benitez. The club does not air dirty linen in public. The reactions by Gerrard and that of SFX have blown the situation completely like an atomic bomb. Where and how did the rumours of Gerrard going to Spain start? Certainly not from LFC. Someone wishes to make Liverpool the scapegoat for Gerrard's departure, and their attempt is very hollow. First, releasing that the club wish to force him out and now that something has happened in the past 6 weeks that has put him off signing. Indicating that he wishes not to get involved in a slagging match implicates that the 'events' had something to do with the club.

Gerrard has made a mockery of my prediction yesterday. He's allowed the mockery of our club. He was an idol at Anfield and the fans will not accept the club were negative to him. We wanted him to stay, he wanted to stay, the club wanted him to stay. What event could be that drastic to have changed his mind? Saying he has respect for the club and the people there has made no sympathy for him. Why did he bite the badge when he scored that time? It meant nothing. Frank Lampard kisses the badge when he scores. Let's see if he does that at Upton Park.

Gerrard said he wanted to sign, made it sound so definite, and now he has taken the decision to leave. He shouldn't have said yes in the first place. As for his destination, anywhere but Chelsea. After Mourinho's 'sssshhhhshh', that would be rubbing it in our faces.


Monday, July 04, 2005

Liverpool FC & Gerrard

I saw on Sky Sports News Rafael Benitez stating categorically that the club offered Gerrard the chance to sign a new contract three times, each time they were told to wait. That was because he wanted to see where Liverpool were going. We were in the Champs League and I suspect he was waiting for us to go out and that would have confirmed to him to leave. This is why he made his comments about how he doesn't think we will get far in the competition. I haven't forgotten that.

He had the ultimate role of being captain and lifting the European Cup. He wouldn't have heard of being substituted, would have killed to remain on the pitch. He has that memory of lifting the cup, now he has what he wanted, is it now time to go? He had said previously on at least two occasions he is ready to sign, which I think meant at the time he was ready to listen to an improvement to his current contract, not an extension.

The word from his agency is that the situation isn't about money. Then what else can it be about? The club wants him to sign, he wants to sign, agency sees more money elsewhere. It IS about money.

Rafael has made four signings of Zenden, Barragan, Gonzales and Reina, key to his plan in improving the squad and the club's performance. We're due to play in the first qualifier very soon, defend the trophy, something which we pressed UEFA to do despite the rules. This, all for Liverpool, should content Gerrard about staying. But it's not about Steven Gerrard and Liverpool, the fans, the passion, the history. It's about the current rate of value someone else can achieve through him.

Gerrard said after Istanbul how could he leave the club after the final? Well, according to his agent, and NOT Gerrard, all positives about holding further talks are now dashed. Therefore Gerrard is prepared, according to his agent, to listen to offers elsewhere. So Gerrard, therefore, does want to leave, and that would make what he said after the final, in that post-match conference, uttery hypocrisy.

I never fully grasped why managers and chairpersons dislike certain agents, if not all of them. I certainly do today. It was leaked that Liverpool FC showed signs they did not want him, why talks have collapsed. Not for one minute will I ever believe that, how that absolute piece of rubbish could get out to be believed is incredible.

Gerrard needs to really re-think his actions from this point onwards. If he wants to stay, and I think he does, sign tomorrow. Otherwise, tomorrow, I want to hear from him that he wants to leave and is not interested anymore in signing for Liverpool FC. Leave SFX at the door and sign now.

Or pack up and go.

It's your choice, Steven.


Liverpool and Stevie G - sort it out!?!??

Inevitably my gripe this morning is over the headlines regarding Steven Gerrard and Liverpool FC. Gerrard is said to have had a fall-out with manager Rafael Benitez, the subject of which I do not know and no media have yet explained, but they seemed to have learned of it. The club have dragged themselves over offering an improved contract. Rick Parry went away on holiday before putting something down for Gerrard to at least ponder over. Gerrard is said to have come in privately to Melwood training ground to do some solo training, had the fall-out with Benitez, and continued going through his paces with assistant Paco Esteban as both he and Benitez fumed. And finally, all avenues to any talks between club and player have apparently been permanently severed on Gerrard's word to his agency, SFX.

Perhaps SFX are pushing Gerrard to niggle the club for much more, the captain is a prized asset in the football world and could barter for a high price. A price that SFX sense Liverpool cannot, or will struggle to, match, therefore leading to a stand-off and possibly to an eventual cease on talks. We have just won the top trophy in European football over a month ago with a dramatic comeback, it was the win that incited Gerrard to want to stay, it was the win we needed to persuade him to stay. To go through that and then eventually see him leave under terse circumstances would be completely throwing away one of England's best players and the pinnacle of the kind of drive we need at Anfield. The one player isnt bigger than the club but for goodness sake the situation is becoming a calamitous farce. Gerrard cannot be allowed to leave because of silly little disagreements.

The one thing I wouldn't put up with is Gerrard being pushed to squeeze the club by his agency, or on his own accord. If Gerrard wants to go, then fair enough. Otherwise, if Liverpool are playing about, they better well straighten up and get down to business, or face the wrath of their fans.



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